URA: Cigarette Smuggling Thriving In West Nile

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In short
Smugglers now pack the cigarettes in jerry cans, glass cylinders, drums and used tires. Some of the smugglers also allegedly connive with members of security forces to smuggle the contraband cigarettes from Kenya into Uganda.

The smuggling of contraband Super Match cigarettes into West Nile region has shot up as smugglers invent new tricks to avoid detection by Uganda Revenue Authority-URA.  
 
Unlike in the past where smugglers used bicycles and vehicles to smuggle the contraband cigarettes, they now pack the cigarettes in jerry cans, glass cylinders, drums and used tires. Some of the smugglers also allegedly connive with members of security forces to smuggle the contraband cigarettes from Kenya into Uganda.  
 
Godson Mwesigye, the West Nile URA enforcement supervisor, says they had managed to bring down smuggling at the beginning of this year, but the situation has worsened as the smugglers are not resting.
 
He says that they have discovered that the smugglers are also building new boards inside the containers of their trucks to conceal the contraband cigarettes.


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Government loses billions of shillings every year as a result of cigarette smuggling. Mwesigye appeals to people connected to smugglers to speak to their relatives and friends to stop the illegal trade because it has become a big concern to government. Other common products smuggled into West Nile include sugar, timber and fuel.

Solomon Muyita, the head of corporate and regulatory affairs at BAT Uganda, says that increase in smuggled cigarettes greatly affects the tobacco company. He says that once the cigarettes are smuggled into the country, they are sold cheaply, which affects market yet they pay a lot of tax to government.

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The leaders of the districts along the Congo and South Sudan border say that controlling smuggling may be hard because some of the people involved have relatives in both countries.
 
Charles Waga, the Maracha district vice chairperson, says that many people are still involved in the dangerous trade because dealing in the contraband cigarettes is more profitable.
 
He says that people dealing in locally manufactured-cigarette hardly make any profits because of high taxes. There are about 19 border points in West Nile region alone that are manned by operatives of Uganda Revenue Authority.

 

About the author

Ronald Batre
Batre is a trained journalist based in Arua in West Nile

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